We are bombarded by information all day long. Whether it is at work, on social media or our young children’s nonsensical rambling tales. Sometimes all that information stops me in my tracks and leaves me with analysis paralysis, what about you?
Personally, I don’t help myself out either, I don’t like to move forward until I feel like I have gathered sufficient information on a topic, like any good information gatherer! But that can get me stuck dreaming and not doing. Not the best place to be.
I know I’m not alone in being stuck in the dreaming phase. Too much time dreaming and thinking prevents us from moving forward in our lives. It is easier to stay stuck than to even think about all the things we have to do to achieve our goals. We have heard it time and time again not to take the easy road and that it isn’t worth it if we didn’t have to fight for it. Which makes us think it MUST be a complicated road to fulfilling our dream.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can simplify it, we just have to make that choice.
Now this applies to our whole lives, am I right? But it definitely applies to our careers. So today I wanted to get back to the basics of the job search, simplify it so that it doesn’t seem so scary and impossible. Here are the 5 steps to the Minimalist Job Search, one that is so simple that it does almost seem too easy but I can tell you that if you follow them that you are well on your way to fulfilling your career dreams.
1. Foundational Preparation
Honestly, this is one of the biggest time savers. Writing one master resume and cover letter that only needs to be tweaked. Doing one master interview prep that only needs to be reviewed and customized. It saves hours.
How? Start at what you want. Take a look at 3-5 job postings that are in line with your career aspirations and your interests, motivations and skills. There is probably a lot of overlap between them once you pay attention. Write down all the shared responsibilities and qualifications. Compare that to your previous jobs in terms of what you did, how you made a difference and what you accomplished.
Keep all of that in mind as your write your resume and cover letter.
Now don’t forget to highlight your accomplishments in your resume! When writing them out, use BAR (Background Action Result) to guide you. Taking this one simple step will help you get all the right details into your marketing documents.
Then once a job posting comes up that you are really interested in, all you have to do is review your marketing documents to make sure it lines up before submitting. That should only take 5 minutes!
Next up is your foundational interview prep. You already have some of it started! Your accomplishments written out using BAR are some of your stories making your life so much easier. Think about any other stories that you should think about such as “tell me about yourself”, your weakness, problem solving, etc.
Looking at the responsibilities and qualifications you will also see the overlap of certain job duties, skills and knowledge that you may need to have. Ensure you have some stories prepared that demonstrate your experience in those areas.
Finally come up with 3-5 questions that would make sense for these types of roles, ones that are specific but relevant to any company/industry.
Once that phone rings with an interview request all you’ll need to do is brush up on your stories, making sure they match up with the job description, do some company research, prepare for “why do you want to work here” and add some company/industry specific questions!
2. Get Social Media Ready
Social Media has become a vital part of the job search, and while you can go deep into using it as a tool, you can also take a simpler approach.
First, make sure they are all job search friendly, meaning professional and private. Second, get your LinkedIn profile set up to wow. Third, get your LinkedIn connections to a healthy number (ideally 500).
That’s it. Not too hard!
3. Reconnect with Key Network
This is going to sound hypocritical coming from me since I talk about networking ALL. THE. TIME.
But even networking can be simplified!
If you don’t have time or energy then don’t worry about extensive networking. Just focus on reconnecting with certain people within your network. Who those people are depends but the key is to engage the ones who are most likely to advocate for you or hire you.
Previous references and managers are the first priority, they usually hired you in the first place, they did your performance reviews and they know just what you can bring to the table. Ask them out for a coffee or lunch (with you footing the bill!).
Second would be anyone you know who works at a company you want to work at. They know how it works and with them vouching for you, you are more likely to get an interview. Ask to speak over the phone or buy them a cup of coffee.
Third would be colleagues you were close with and people who are natural matchmakers when it comes to people. These people can speak to your work or they are just the type of people who naturally connects their network. Ask to buy the a coffee or after work drinks.
4. Communication Templates
One major time saver is to write out email templates, similar to writing out foundational marketing documents. These are emails that you spend 15 minutes crafting and then less than a minute tweaking. That way you aren’t agonizing every time! These emails can be used for networking, informational interview requests, follow up after meeting someone, and thank you after an interview.
5. Create a Plan
One of the easiest way to simplify your job search is by having a plan in place. Deciding how much time each week you want to devote to your job search and then splitting up your time accordingly. Then planning out each day to make sure nothing slips through the cracks! A successful path to a new Career is often dependent on the little things (like following up on a job application) that you can easily forget.
You can use an online calendar to track setting up appointments as reminders, an app like Trello creating a Job Search project.
Me, I’m a paper and pen gal! There is something about writing things down that just makes things more real and I’m definitely more likely to remember.
That is why I designed the Dream Career Planner pages, three free printables that definitely will make your job search simpler!
Click here to download yours today.
The Minimalist Job Search may seem like it is too good to be true, but these 5 steps all work together. Some have you putting in some work up front to save you time later while others have you be laser focused on where you put your time and effort. But all will get you on the journey towards your dream job. It is time to stop spending your life dreaming and start living your dream instead.
Fall is just around the corner if you can believe it! I don’t know about you but September always feels like the start of a new year coming off of the summer months where we put our careers and job searches on the backburner a bit.
Organizations do the same, recruitment goes on hiatus or really slows down during the summer. Which means it picks up in September again! The fall is one of the busiest hiring seasons of the year (January is the other). It is also Career and Job Fair season!
Going to Career and Job Fairs is a great way to build your network – not only are you interacting with recruiters and hiring managers who are hiring RIGHT NOW. But you are also getting great practice at delivering your Elevator Pitch and learning how to get people invested in your career.
Want to make sure you stand out and leave a great impression? Well here are 9 keys to success before, during and after the fair.
Before the Job Fair:
1. Research, Research, Research
Most fairs have an online list of the organizations that are attending. Make a list of the companies you want to make sure you get to and prioritize the list by importance and interest. Take a look at the company websites to gather some information that you can use when meeting with them. Don’t forget to see if they have any interesting job postings!
2. Prepare Yourself
Get your elevator pitch ready to go! Use my handy How To guide to help you out and practice. Focus on sounding authentic, practice different iterations of it depending on who you are talking to (recruiter, hiring manager, potential peer) and their company. Try saying it on the fly.
Also, be prepared to be interviewed. Career Fairs offer interview rooms for companies, I remember using them and them being use! When someone great came along that I knew was a perfect match for an open role, I would ask if they had time to be interviewed. We would go to the room and I would do a typical telephone pre-screen interview (a mostly resume based interview). I never expected the person to interview perfectly because it was so last minute so don’t stress too much. But be prepared and ready for anything.
Also prepare your outfit. The dress for success moniker really works here. Depending on the industry you may not need to wear a suit but you definitely need to wear business/business casual.
3. Get your documents in order
Print off your resume (making sure it is Modern and set to Win), making sure you bring enough copies. A good rule of thumb is to bring two per company that you really want plus a few extra!
also recommend getting some business cards printed with your name and contact details as not all companies collect resumes.
Bring a notebook, this will come in handy to jot down any names, instructions or notes.
During the Job Fair:
1. Have Patience
There are going to be lines, be prepared for that. Do NOT try and cut to the front that will not look good on you. Have patience and keep your cool as you wait.
As a recruiter, I loved Career Fairs but they were also exhausting. I would talk to hundreds of people and would need to try to give each and every one of them my complete interest and attention.
Don’t forget that. You only have to talk to 15-20 people probably, a recruiter is talking to 10x that at least. So cut them a bit of slack. Advocate for yourself in a clear and concise manner but don’t stress if you spend a minute less than someone else or they don’t seem as engaged – it isn’t you, they are just tired! Be kind to them.
I have had people who were so sick of spending 5 minutes in line and just weren’t happy with how engaged I was with them and they would take it out on me, getting irate, abrasive and sometimes insulting. I get it, the job search is hard but you will never get hired treating people like this! If you find yourself getting upset while in line, leave, calm down and come back.
2. Make the Most of it.
You will probably spend 1-2 minutes with each individual so plan your time effectively. Offer a firm handshake which gives a great first impression. Deliver your elevator pitch again focusing on being genuine and not robotic. Be prepared to answer a question or two. A common question that I used to ask was “what brings you here today”. Answer it showing you have put in the work so tailor it to your skill set and interests to be in alignment with theirs.
Ask a couple insightful questions, again showing your research and fit for the role and company. And finally ask what any next steps would be.
You can ask for a business card but don’t be surprised if you don’t get a personal one, most companies have generic ones printed specifically for career fairs. If they don’t have it then ask them for their full name, this way you can find them on LinkedIn.
3. Go off plan.
So I’m going suggest something weird. As soon as you arrive don’t make a beeline towards your number one company, instead go to the company you are least interested in, the one that wasn't even a contender for your list. Why? Use it as a practice ground for the 1-2 minutes. It will allow you to clear the cobwebs in a no pressure situation as you aren’t interested in them at all.
After you have gone to your top companies, walk around the fair, check out some of the companies that didn’t make your shortlist. If something seems to call out to you then follow that, go up to their booths and chat. You just never know what can happen!
After the Fair:
1. Take Notes
As soon as you get home, if not sooner. Write down notes. Go through each company you visited and write down tidbits of the conversations, answers they gave, questions they asked. You spoke to so many people you want to make sure you don’t forget the key information! If you didn’t get a business card, recheck their names in your notes to make sure you got them right.
2. Respect any Instructions
Did anyone give you instructions on next steps – apply online, immediately email in your resume, send an email to schedule an interview? Following through on those is your first priority.
3. Follow Through
This is a big one and an oft overlooked step! I went to countless Career Fairs and met thousands of individuals as a Recruiter. You know how many follow up emails I got? Probably less than 100, and I think that is a generous estimate! Those people who followed up were definitely more likely to get called in for an interview. It is an easy way to sell yourself and stand out from the crowd.
If you got a business card, then send those individuals a thank you email reemphasizing your interest in the company and your fit for any open roles (or an ask to be considered for future roles).
If you didn’t get a business card, then look them up on LinkedIn! Send a connection request with a short note thanking them.
Worst case scenario – you don’t get an email or a name. Well don’t worry! Mail the HR department as actual thank you card! Again thanking them for their time and outlining your fit. Don’t include your resume, but do include your contact details!
Do you feel more confident about attending any of the upcoming Career and Job Fairs this fall?
There was this one interview I had that I remember so clearly. Not because I aced it but because I was an anxious wreck! It was for a role within my field at the time, a one-on-one counselor with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. I wanted the job so much as I would be working within a camp that focused on creating a safe and fun space for children to enjoy their summer.
The funny thing was, I knew I was qualified – I had worked in camps before and I had worked with individuals needing mental health and life skills support. But that didn’t matter, I was straight up nervous.
I got into the interview and while I was able to answer the questions, I just could not calm my nerves down. In fact, my hands were shaking so badly that one of the interviewers even paused the interview to say I was doing great and that the role was pretty much mine and that I didn’t need to be so nervous. Talk about embarrassing!
I was lucky that they saw past my nerves and gave me the job but I know many Hiring Managers who wouldn’t be so kind. They would be concerned that you wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of the job, that they would need to hold your hand anytime something challenging came up or that they could never depend on you to be the face of a role (with internal or external clients, management/senior leadership, etc).
So while nerves are a completely normal part of the interview process, it is vital that you are able to calm or redirect those interview jitters! Here are 9 tips to do just that.
1. Practice makes Perfect
I am a big believer of foundational preparation for interviews. Before you begin your job search you probably have a sense of the types of roles you will be interviewing for. So at that point think of all of your stories, such as your Tell Me About Yourself answer.
If most of the work is done before an interview request comes in then that initial flood of panic and anxiety won’t happen (or be as strong at least) and you can just do a quick review and tweak of your stories and spend some time preparing for why you want to work there.
2. Prepare for the Worst
I constantly prepare myself, my clients, even my loved ones for the roller coaster of life. That includes the interview. No interview is ever perfect and that is OKAY.
Spend some time reflecting on what normally happens during an interview when your nerves get the better of you.
Do you go on a rambling spree? If yes, prepare for how you will handle it (apologize for going off topic, blame your excitement or passion and then come back to answering the question and please don’t forget to state the result!).
Do you clam up and freeze? If yes, how will you handle that? (take a sip of water, ask them to repeat the question, say you need a few seconds to think it through, even ask to come back to the question).
Now think about the interviewers’ behaviours – what if they seem distracted? Or displaying negative body language, or asking very direct and unnerving questions? How will you handle that without it impacting your performance? You don’t know what is happening in their life – maybe they can’t stand interviewing, or got some bad news right before, aren’t feeling good or simply just having a bad day. Their behavior could have NOTHING to do with you! So if you prepare for how you will handle it, then you are more likely to still shine in the interview.
3. Get your ZZZ’s
Sleep is so incredibly underrated, and I can go on and on about it but I’ll save that for another day! All I’ll say is to have a good night of sleep the night before – go to bed at a reasonable hour, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep (which means go to bed 7.5-9.5 hours before you want to get up). This will ensure you are feeling your best which means you are less likely to feel nervous.
4. Move Your Body
Plan to get to the interview with some time to spare and then go for a quick walk. Fresh air and movement are proven to help you calm down as it releases those wonderful endorphins!
The morning of or evening before do some exercise that will bring you value – run, strength workout, yoga. Do the one that you know will leave you feeling strong, confident and ready to take on the world!
I think I’ve already talked about how meditation can help you get ahead in your career. It will help you slow down the nervous mind, recognize the spiral of thoughts that accompany it and help you notice when you are slipping into bad, nervous habits during the interview faster allowing you to self-correct.
6. Put on your cape
A few years ago a TED talk by Amy Cuddy introduced the world to the concept of the power pose before important meetings. Amy has since backed up her original findings with a new study that continues to show that effecting a power pose can impact brain chemistry which is amazing!
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed (bathroom stall?!), put your hands on your hips and stand there like Wonder Woman or Superman for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Imagine yourself, no one can stop you, you got this. Take a deep breath and go show those interviewers what you can do!
7. Power Up with Power Songs
Do you have power songs? You know those songs that pump you up and lift you up? I have tons, in fact I have a whole playlist of them that I play whenever I feel like a need a boost. Like Sia and David Guetta’s Titanium or Forever by Drake, Eminem – which are two of my go tos.
On your way to the interview, play a couple of them and let them excite you and fill you with power and confidence.
8. Food for Thought
I remember in first year Biology, our professor telling us to eat a mini chocolate bar right before all exams. She said the combination of caffeine and sugar was a sure way to activate our brain allowing our sense of recall to be quicker. I’m not sure about the science behind it but who is going to say no to that!
For the longest time I did that, but in the last few years I’ve begun having bananas before important meetings or presentations. It started because that was what I would take before a race (running, triathlon, obstacle course) and I really felt a positive impact. For me, it provides me the energy needed and it also calms me down.
So while you are on your quick walk or on the way to the interview grab a mini chocolate bar, banana or other small snack.
9. Fake it til you Make it
After that disastrous interview I decided to really focus on channeling those nerves into excitement. I re-framed those feelings. You know what I’m talking about: your hands are slightly shaking, your heart is racing, you are sweating. The same feelings happen when you are amped up and excited to go, so I tell myself I’m just super excited instead of super nervous.
Before going in, I would do is bounce on my toes a bit, give myself a pep talk and use that adrenaline in a positive way. I know others who make funny faces in the mirror, who do a full body shake or just repeat “yes, yes, yes” in their heads.
There is something to this idea, as one thing I’ve learned over my 15 years is that Hiring Managers love to hire people who are excited and enthusiastic to work for them.
At the end of all my preps, I always say “Good Luck. Have Fun. Be Yourself.” After all, I want the interview to be an enjoyable experience!
I do understand that nerves can be debilitating, and if none of these tips help then maybe customized interview training and prep will – reach out to me and we can work on this together.
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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